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The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery

National Gallery staff have been recreating paintings from its collection while in lockdown

By
Kmccabe
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If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that some people are just naturally able to create their own entertainment. In mid-March, when most of us were pacing our living rooms in a daze as we adjusted to home-working, a Dutch Instagram account invented the ultimate stay-at-home art challenge: Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine (Between Art and Quarantine). The rules are simple:

1) Choose your favourite painting

2) Recreate the painting using three items around your house

3) Share your homage online 

The challenge was soon picked up by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Getty Museum, who encouraged social media followers to get involved. The idea evolved so quickly that people started referring to it as the ‘Getty Museum Challenge’

Unsurprisingly, the whole thing has been very popular with art educators and gallery workers. Staff at the National Gallery got right into the Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine spirit, and decided to only recreate paintings that are held in the gallery’s permanent collection. As the challenge limits you to whatever is lying around your home, the domestic scenes of Dutch genre paintings feature pretty heavily (as do disgruntled cats who clearly resent being used as painting props). We’re big fans of the effort to recreate ‘A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel’ (sometimes shortened to ‘A Boy and a Girl with a Cat’) by Dutch Golden Age painter Judith Leyster. With no live eels to hand, they substituted in a cooked prawn. 

The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery

One ambitious curator went for a whole Caravaggio, ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, using clever kitchen lighting for some real-life chiaroscuro. 

The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery

Lawrence Chiles, the National Gallery’s head of digital services says the challenge has been a great way for staff and audience to connect with the artworks during this time: ‘These are paintings the staff work with or see every day as part of their daily jobs,’ he says. ‘We’re all missing that connection. Recreating the works like this does make you look at how they are constructed and it certainly makes everyone think creatively to find the right props.’

We hate to play favourites. But we will, because National Gallery curator Bart is the clear winner. With a forlorn expression, kitchen towel hat, a rubber duck and an extremely convenient model of a squirrel, he flawlessly recreates ‘A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling’ by German Renaissance painter Hans Holbein. Well done, Bart: you nailed it. 

The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery
The National Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy of The National Gallery

Need Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine inspiration? Take a virtual tour of the paintings in London’s museums and galleries. 

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